Business ads: what if Labor wins… SMEs struggle with super choice… Government releases broadband plan… Trademark wars: the latest… Online ads’ new record… Joyce to back Labor’s TPA plan… New Japanese tourism plan… Economy roundup…

The business IR ads – what if Labor gets elected anyway?

The launch of a business-backed advertising campaign supporting the Howard Government’s industrial relations regime will not mean closing the lines of communication with Labor, leading business groups say.

The National Retail Association has financially backed the campaign – contrary to a report in the Australian Financial Review yesterday. NRA chief executive Patrick McKendry says he will continue talk with Labor on key issues.

“We’ll continue to engage with Labor. You can’t resile from the fact that we disagree with Labor’s industrial relations policy, but we’re not about to put our head in the sand. We still maintain dialogue with relevant people,” McKendry says.

He rejects the view that groups seen to publicly support the business advertising campaign could find it more difficult to have their voices heard should Labor take government at the federal election.

“Speaking out on these issues is our reason for being. It would have concerned us more if we didn’t support the adds because of intimidation,” McKendry says. “We’ve been around since 1931 and maintained working relationships with all sides of politics, even where we’ve disagreed.”

Yesterday the managing director of the Housing Industry Association, Ron Silberberg, said his organisation had not backed the IR advertising campaign because he felt it would hamper policy discussions with Labor.

Silberberg told the Australian Financial Review that he considered the HIA was making progress in its dialogue with Labor on its industrial relations policy. “In these circumstances it would be counter-productive to join the campaign,” he said.

The Council of Small Business of Australia has also chosen not to financially support the campaign, although for different reasons.

“We don’t have the resources and we wanted to stay separate form the big business lobby groups because, although we do support the current campaign and the workplace relations system as it is, there are other issues we don’t agree on,” council chief executive Tony Steven said.

Steven said a Labor government should remain accessible to the nation’s business groups. “It is vitally important that whoever is in government works with business groups in a constructive manner because that’s what’s best for the Australian community.

– Mike Preston


SMEs struggle with super choice

The paperwork burden on businesses dealing with the superannuation choices of their employees has increased dramatically over the past five years and is likely to keep rising, a new survey of Australian medium-sized businesses by Cameron Research has revealed.

The survey, of 400 businesses with between 20 and 500 employees, found that 25% make super payments to more than 20 different funds on behalf of employees, up from 8% in 2005 and 4% in 2003. Only 4% deal with only one fund, down from 22% in 2005

And the number of payments to different funds businesses have to administer is likely to grow, with businesses reporting a much higher interest in super choice among new employees.

Unsurprisingly, the figures suggest the proliferation in super choice has created extra work for medium-sized business. Well over 50% of business surveyed say it is a hassle when employees exercise their right to choose a fund, 15% of which describing it is a ‘significant hassle’. Views depend on the respondent’s job position; payroll managers are far more likely to indicate it is a hassle compared with HR managers or CFOs.

Many businesses are harnessing technology to lighten to paperwork load associated with super payments, with 75% of business making super contributions to their main superfund by EFT. Only 6% said they did not know they could make electronic payments to their default fund.

– Mike Preston


Government releases broadband plan

We should know who, what and how in relation to the construction of a new fast broadband network in Australia by mid-February 2008, according to guidelines released by the Government yesterday; unless the federal election gets in the way.

Many of Australia’s telcos will no doubt be taking a fine-tooth comb to the 44-page draft guidelines, which sets down the rules they must follow if they want to bid to construct a cutting-edge broadband network for Australia.

Question marks now hang over two issues: what form the broadband network will take, and what will happen if Labor is elected.

On the first question, while Telstra and the Optus led G9 consortium have indicated they will propose a fibre-to-the-node network, federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan was yesterday keen to point out that the Government was open to alternative proposals.

“Unlike the Labor Party, we are not in the business of picking a one-size-fits-all technology and discarding the rest,” she said. “The guidelines do not specify that the high-speed network must be a fibre-to-the-node network. It could contain a fibre-to-the-home upgrade path or another alternative high-speed platform.”.

But a change of government at the election, likely to be held in October or November, could mean progress towards a new broadband network will have to start all over again; Labor is expected to scrap the expert taskforce and the guidelines.

– Mike Preston


The next ludicrous instalment in trademark wars

Big business’s ridiculous battle to trademark colours, smalls and shapes, has reached a new low, with giant Nestle wanting to trademark the image of a plain red coffee mug.

Nestle, which apparently has already registered the word ‘decaf’, claims the image – and another one of a coffee cup viewed from above, are distinctive. Many in the industry are up in arms claiming that a cup of coffee is well, just a cup of coffee. The claim is unlikely to succeed.


Online ads break new record

Australian spending on online advertising lifted 10.7% in the second quarter of 2007 to a record $325.5 million, according to a new PricewaterhouseCoopers figures and reported in The Australian.

The result represents a $99.5 million increase on the June 2006 quarter. The finance, ICT and motor vehicle sectors are the biggest users of general online display advertising, while recruitment and real estate businesses are more likely to use online classifieds advertising.

– Mike Preston


Barnaby Joyce backs Labor TPA changes

Maverick National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce says he will back Labor proposals to stiffen small business protections in the Trade Practices Act.

Earlier this week Labor announced it would introduce its own amendments to the Trade Practices Act to make to reduce the barriers to taking legal action against predatory pricing and allow business to litigate in the low-cost Federal Magistrates Court.

Joyce’s vote will not mean Labor’s proposal will become law, however, with the Government’s proposed amendments the only ones likely to receive required support in both houses of Parliament.

– Mike Preston


New Japanese tourism campaign

Details of a new campaign to lure more Japanese tourists to Australia were announced last night by federal Small Business and Tourism Minister Fran Bailey.

The Australian Financial Review reports that the new campaign, to be titled Immerse Yourself in Australia’s World Heritage, will feature print, cinema and internet advertising that highlights the most spectacular natural features that Australia has to offer.

The new campaign follows recent figures showing a sharp decline in Japanese visitors to Australia.

Bailey says a combination of the more expensive Australian dollar against the yen and the availability of cheaper holidays to China and Vietnam were factors behind the drop off, according to the report.

– Mike Preston


Economy roundup

Australia’s unemployment rate remained steady at 4.3% in July, although 21,000 new jobs were created, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released today.

ANZ economist Riki Polygenis says today’s figures unequivocally confirm the degree of tightness in Australia’s labour market and illustrates upside risks to inflation that mean the Reserve Bank will remain on a tightening bias for some time to come.

At 12.25 pm the S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.6% on yesterday’s close, at 6135.7. The Australian dollar is up strongly to US86.44¢ after closing yesterday at US86.75¢.

– Mike Preston


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